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Mt. Rainier National Park
Knapsack Pass Hike
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Map of Knapsack Pass Hike

Length: 3.6 mile RT
Elevation Change: 1323' cumulative elevation gain
Season: Summer thru Fall
Difficulty:   Challenging
park entrance fee

Features: The trailhead for this hike is Mowich Lake Campground. Head toward the lake, then take a right along the shore. It's a short distance to the old ranger cabin at the southeast corner of Mowich Lake. The trail begins up and to the left of the cabin. For the best experience, start your hike early in the day as Mount Rainier often clouds up around noon time. The mountain is usually best seen before noon or late in day.

The trail to Knapsack Pass is unmaintained but well-established. Itís not the typical park trail and will be rough in spots. If you are an experienced hiker with a sense of adventure, this short, steep out-and-back hike is for you and will reward you with breathtaking views.

The trail rises steeply though the woods at first, but then breaks out into open country. The trail passes several small waterfalls surrounded by lush patches of wildflowers. There is a little trail finding required to pick up the trail at the top of a small meadow.

Then the trail rises up a spectacular bowl surrounded by towering rock formations. In season, there are abundant wildflowers. Fay Peak is on the right and Mother Mountain is on the left. Follow the switchbacks to the top of Knapsack Pass and its fantastic view of Mt. Rainier.

Hiking beyond Knapsack Pass is undertaken at your own risk, though a distant visible trail will tempt you. The terrain beyond the pass is difficult, unmarked and requires crossing a large rock field with high potential for injury. Its possible that the Knapsack Pass trail is no longer maintained to keep hikers off the boulder field and the fragile tundra beyond.

An added benefit to this hike is Mowich Campground. The campground requires no reservations, but the number of campsites is limited. The restrooms are well maintained. Bear safety rules must be followed and there is a locker for food and toiletries. Park rangers have a small headquarters nearby, so they are often around for advice and assistance. The only downside is the lack of privacy. This campground is more functional than it is scenic; it is often used for support crews who assist others hiking the entire Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier.

Knapsack Pass panorama

How to get there:

From Puyallup,Washington, drive 13 miles east on State Route 410 to Buckley. Turn right (south) onto SR 165 and proceed through the town of Carbonado. Just beyond the Carbon River Gorge bridge, bear right uphill onto Mowich Lake Road. Follow this good gravel road about 17 miles to its end and find the trailhead on the left (north) side of the road, near Mowich Lake.
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A Virtual Hike of Knapsack Pass

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